WEST CHESTER, OH (FOX19) - The Lakota School Board met in special session on Thursday and approved a 5.5 mill levy for the November ballot which is expected to generate $13.8 million annually.
The board previously passed a first resolution for the levy on June 24 for the purpose of providing funds for current operating expenses and for general, on-going permanent improvements.
"The priorities are so critical that we really can't hold off," argued board president Joan Powell.
After three failed levy attempts, board members are trying to do a better job of justifying to voters why a levy is needed.
"It really wasn't very well spelled out, what the money was going to go for," Powell admitted. "Our community often says, just as anybody would, 'What am I buying with this? What am I going to get?'"
The combined levy would be broken down as:
- 3.5 mills for current operating expenses
- 2.0 mills for general, on-going permanent improvements.
The board says $13.5 million would go toward a multi-year tightened security plan and $6.3 million for technology improvements throughout the district.
"We quit investing by and large in technology and we are woefully out of date," Powell argued.
Superintendent Dr. Karen Mantia says security improvements would include seven additional school resource officers in addition to facility improvements.
"Everybody knows that the marketplace is changing, everybody knows that security and safety is paramount," Dr. Mantia told FOX19. "I'm expecting a very positive community reaction to our needs."
Board members are proposing $2.8 million be earmarked for programming which could come in the form of extending school days or online course options. The board will further discuss the programming options available during an August 12th meeting.
The group "No Lakota" which has come out against past levies plans to continue their opposition arguing property owners cannot afford an increase and that the district should still be able to work within its budget.
Parent Larry Whited can understand some of the argument against a levy.
"Public systems build in waste. They do," he said. "When they're suing other people's money they become wasteful and so a turn down every once in a while is a good check, a good reality check."
As a realtor, however, Whited recognizes the need to invest in schools.
"If we turn down a fourth one it hurts. It hurts property values," he said.
If this levy is approved, it would cost the owner of a $200,000 home an additional $340 a year.
"We're just hoping that the people that can see the need will step forward and vote for this levy," board member Ray Murray said.
Right now the district is operating on a balanced budget that has been cut by $20 million in the last three years.